On July 7, 1988 a Canadian Forces Kiowa helicopter crashed into the waters of Upper Arrow Lake off the shores of Nakusp, killing the two officers on board, Captain John Gregory Benedict and Lieutenant Joseph Bernard Yves Gregoire.
The accident linked the Village of Nakusp and 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron forever. In the years that followed, a close relationship between the city and the 408 Squadron flourished, and resulted in numerous parades and friendly hockey games. On the 14 September, 1990, the 408 was given The Freedom of the City of Nakusp, a clear sign of the deep bond that had developed.
“It’s events like those that really shape and develop very unique friendships between units and communities. It’s something that we like to establish and maintain,” Mramor said, noting that providing support for overseas operations in Afghanistan was their number one priority, which put visiting Nakusp on the back burner for a while. The squadron has had this visit on their list, though.
“As soon as we had an opportunity to come back that was definitely on the top of the list of things to do,” the Captain told the Arrow Lakes News.
The squad will be coming to Nakusp for the Remembrance Day ceremony, and to play a little hockey as well.
“We have two hockey games in the afternoon of November 11. One’s at 15:00 and one’s at 18:30,” Captain Mramor relayed, giving the 24-hour times of the games out of habit.
“There’s going to be nineteen of us … coming both by aircraft and on a bus,” Mramor said. The Captain will finally get to visit the town he has known only in passing so far.
“It’s really exciting,” he said, “I’ve never been on the ground in Nakusp more than just passing through.”
But this visit, like others before, will also be brief.
“Due to the fact that it’s a 13 hour transit,” Mramor gave in explanation, which highlights the quick trip’s uniqueness and value.
Soon enough the squadron will be back in Edmonton awaiting their next set of orders. For the moment, the 408 has completed its missions in Afghanistan, where Mramor spent eight months supporting the ground operations there.
“Not to say we’ll never go back, but not in the near future anyway,” Captain Mramor said, who says now the squad will be waiting for their next mission.
What happens next for the team is in the hands of the federal government, who have recently deployed the 408 on domestic missions as well.
“This summer we did everything from evacuating people from their homes up in northern Saskatchewan because of forest fires, [as well as] Portage La Prairie when they had the flood,” said Mramor. Not all missions are in the chilly north.
“We had some members in Jamaica because they were having issues with their search and rescue that they needed help with for the hurricane season,” he said, illustrating the variety of work the men and women of the Canadian Forces carry out.
“Our job is to be ready for anything at any time,” Captain Mramor summed up, including playing hockey in the village where they have a history, right here in Nakusp.